Can you feel the love the from the oil companies?
First the mark-up on Spot oil prices at Future Markets and now theft at the pump on top of $3 + gas prices!
Is pump giving you what you pay for ?
Complaints climb with gas prices as some fail to deliver as promised
By Enric Volante
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 04.23.2006
You get less than you pay for at hundreds of faulty gas station pumps in Arizona.
Motorists are complaining more about being shorted as rising gas prices make them watch the meter more closely.
"Right now I am being inundated with fuel-device complaints," said Shawn Marquez, who supervises inspections by the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures.
The department is normally hard-pressed to stay on top of gas pumps that don't measure up. With two months still to go in the fiscal year, it has received about 2,300 complaints from motorists, up from 1,800 for all last year, officials said Friday. To keep up, the state is bringing on three more inspectors.
With gas in Tucson averaging $2.81 a gallon for regular unleaded on Friday, consumers "had better be watching" when they fill up, motorist Wendy Palmer said.
The social-services case manager said she was fueling her Ford Taurus in October at TMC Shell, 5470 E. Grant Road, when the meter suddenly jumped ahead. "There was no way that much gas went in it that fast," she said.
She complained to the station, then to the state. A state inspector found that pump was OK, but three others were not dispensing enough gas. Records show the station was fined $900 and fixed the devices.
A service station owner who paid Tucson's largest fine in the past year said he and others do their best to comply with state rules, but that they're unreasonably stringent — particularly when it comes to meter "jump."
Even a well-maintained pump will build up pressure and jump a bit, yet regulators show zero tolerance, fining owners $300 for harmless jumps of a penny or less, said Tom Cooley, whose C and T Oil Co. with four stations was fined $2,700 after inspectors faulted fuel-labeling at his station at 1701 N. Alvernon Way.
He was unaware the state had changed the labeling rules and has fixed everything, he said.
"Everybody is upset about this except Weights and Measures, because it's a moneymaker for them," Cooley said.
Regulators, though, say fines go to the state's general fund, not their department. They say overcharges may be small for each consumer, but the cumulative effect is significant.
"If you're selling a couple of thousand gallons a week, a penny (overcharge) on a gallon of gas becomes real money pretty fast," Weights and Measures spokesman Steve Meissner said.
700 gas pumps flunked
Since the start of last year, regulators have flunked close to 700 gas pumps, meters and nozzles, including at least 89 in Tucson, for dispensing less gas that customers paid for, an Arizona Daily Star examination of inspection data shows.
That's a fraction of the state's pumps and there's no evidence the shortages are intentional: Investigators attribute pumps that don't dispense the right amount to inadequate maintenance.
Weights and Measures allows most pumps for cars to be about one shot-glass short on 5 gallons. Any more and the pump gets tagged and shut until fixed. Station owners may be fined up to $5,000 per violation, although fines are sometimes reduced or canceled, usually in exchange for an agreement to do regular maintenance.
Stations also get cited for failing to update prices on street signs, unreadable labels on fuel and other problems. Pumps that deliver too much gas, favoring the customer, may remain in use if fixed within 30 days.
Citations down from 2003
The number of citations is down from 2003, but how much of that is due to better compliance is unclear because Weights and Measures cut back on gas inspections as it focused on other priorities.
The department's inspection staff, which also monitors supermarket scanners and many other devices, was cut in half in the early 1990s after the auditor general said the state could save money by not doing yearly inspections.
Although the department still does regularly scheduled inspections, it's hard-pressed to check fuel devices more than once every three years.
It relies on complaints from people like Tucsonan Nick Cialdella, a home developer who said he complained to the state last year after a pump's meter showed it dispensed about two gallons more than the capacity of his Ford Expedition's gas tank.
Regulators found the dispenser at Ranas Union station, 7095 E. 22nd St., skimped on all three grades of fuel. They levied a fine of $900 and the station fixed it, records show.
In response to the twin surges in complaints and in gas prices, the department plans to add three inspectors to its current 16 1/2 full-time posts.
"Since we can't do anything about the price," Assistant Director Dennis Ehrhart said, "at least we can do everything we can to make sure the consumer is getting a gallon when they buy a gallon."